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The Father Factor


What Makes Girls “Brave”?

Each week, we will post a review of one of the four films National Fatherhood Initiative has nominated for the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year. These will not be your typical movie reviews, but will instead focus on what in particular makes the movie a good “fatherhood movie.” Our fourth and final entry is on Brave. Reminder: Vote daily through midnight, February 24th.

I can’t say that I have read a ton of articles about women in business or sports, but many of the ones that I have read have a common thread running through them – successful women in business and sports had great dads.  

brave disney

I am not sure what the conventional wisdom is on this topic, but from the various public education campaigns I have seen, and the mentoring programs that businesses run, it seems that the attitude is that women need to see other strong women in order to become strong themselves. This may very well be the case, but it appears to only be part of the story.  

Moreover, the research on the unique effects that fathers have on their children consistently shows that fathers, more than mothers, instill a sense of adventure in their children, encourage safe risk taking, and help them see beyond narrow definitions of what is “expected” of each gender.  

If you apply that research to what it takes to thrive in the business or sports worlds (or anywhere), there is a very strong case for the importance of fathers in helping their children, including girls, become successful.  

What does this have to do with the movie Brave? While Brave is a decidedly mother-daughter story, it was actually the father, Fergus, who, from the very beginning of the story, encouraged his daughter Merida’s adventurous spirit. It was mom who had to “come around” to the idea of her daughter wanting to delay marriage, ride horses, and become an expert archer. Dad “got it” all along.  

While the good folks at Pixar may not have realized it, they were tapping into the truths unearthed in the research I mentioned above (all of which can be found in our Father Facts publications).  

This is why we have nominated Brave for the Fatherhood Movie of the Year. There have certainly been criticisms of the treatment of men and boys in the film. Many of the male characters are childish, violent, immature, and stupid. Even Fergus has moments like that. But at the heart of the father’s character is his love for his daughter and the unyielding support he gives her, even as she makes “unconventional” decisions. Moreover, he has a very loving and affectionate relationship with his wife, to the point where he embarrasses Merida with his public displays of affection.

So, for depicting a loving father and husband who encourages his daughter’s adventurous spirit and unashamedly loves his wife, Brave is up for Fatherhood Movie of the Year.

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Parental Guidance: A Fatherhood Review

Each week, we will post a review of one of the four films National Fatherhood Initiative has nominated for the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year. These will not be your typical movie reviews, but will instead focus on what in particular makes the movie a good “fatherhood movie.” Our third entry is on Parental Guidance.

parental guidance

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Andy Fickman, director of this film to get The Director's Guide to Parental Guidance. The movie stars Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, and Tom Everett Scott. Crystal and Midler play Tomei’s character’s parents, and are grandparents to her and her husband’s three children. Mom and dad have to go away for the weekend, and they struggle with leaving the kids with their grandparents.

The film does a great job of exploring issues around parenting, grandparenting, and marriage. There are several parenting themes in the film relevant to fathers and the film does well to shed light on postives and negatives of both the "old school" and the "new school" way of doing things. Here are a few examples:

1) Old School Versus New School: Technology
Perhaps not a main theme, but funny nonetheless, is the difference between how the "old school" uses tech and the "new school" uses it. For instance, the old school is depicted as not able to answer their phone; while the new school parents have a home that's basically a glorified Siri from the iPhone. I find this portion of the film hilarious. For instance, my dad never cared to own a cell phone; but now that he has grandkids, he owns a cell phone, can text me pictures and owns a laptop where he calls me to video chat via G+ and from his own Facebook account!     

2) Old School Versus New School: Sports
A funny scene takes place over Grandfather (Billy Crystal) and the grandson's baseball game. Crystal learns the way baseball is played is very differenct than how he grew up playing. When Crystal played, you could actually strike out; whereas, in the grandson's game, the teams end in a tie and each batter hits until they get on base. There's plenty of comedy in this scene and viewers will find Crystal at his acting finest! In the day of giving every participant a trophy just for playing the game, I can see my dad shaking his head.

3) Old School Versus New School: Health
Health and parenting takes a role in the film when the "old school" parenting lets the children have sugar for the first time. The "new school" doesn't let the children have sugar. This scene, although funny, will have the "new school" parent thinking twice before letting the grandparent watch the kids. After having ice cream cake for the first time, the daughter in the film grimly points out to her mother, "you lied, yogurt isn't like ice cream!" The battle over creating a health-conscious family contrasted with an anything-goes diet of grandparents is center stage in this film.

4) Old School Versus New School: Discipline
One of my favorite scenes in the film is at dinner. The entire family goes out to eat. The young mom played by Marisa Tomei begins to give her parents a lesson on how to talk to the children. Tomei says condescendingly to her "old school" parents, "Where you would say, 'quit your whining, you're giving me a headache!'; we say, 'use your words!'" For parents, this is an entertaining topic of discussion sure to last longer than the film. 

5) Old School Versus New School: Marriage
Marriage is not left out of this film. The "old school" wife played by Midler does well to point out, "after the kids leave, your husband is the only one there!" Contrast this with the "new school" of leading a very busy life focused almost exclusively on the kids, and you have a nice topic for future discussion with your spouse and parents. Parents and intimacy is shown in real-life. At one point early in the film, Tom grabs Marisa and takes her out on the patio, and with the kids going crazy in the kitchen, he gives her a kiss, and she says, “Oh, that’s like a mini-date!” This film does well to depict the real difficulty of a busy family. 

With regard to marriage and the mother-daughter relationship, Midler has a line that director Fickman says a lot of people responded to when Tormei says to her, “You always take dad’s side.” And Midler says, “Yes, because children leave, and I’m gonna be left with him. You hit college and you said goodbye and your father stayed.” Midler aslo points out to Tomei, “You need to go and show your husband that you support him and believe in him and you want to be with him.”

We learn from watching this film that your parents, for good or for ill, have an impact on you and how you parent. Oh, and that we all should relax, not take life too seriously and enjoy the family we have. Any movie that encourages a family to be closer; well, that's worth an award nomination in our eyes! 

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Beasts of the Southern Wild: A Fatherhood “Review”

Each week, we will post a review of one of the four films National Fatherhood Initiative has nominated for the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year. These will not be your typical movie reviews, but will instead focus on what in particular makes the movie a good “fatherhood movie.” Our first entry is on Beasts of the Southern Wild. 

fatherhood,parenting,family,movies,dad,culture,entertainment,oscars, beasts of the southern wild

One of the hardest things for many dads to do is express love and reveal their emotions to their children. Often, and unfortunately, anger is the only emotion men are really comfortable expressing. This is true of Wink, the father in the highly-praised film, Beasts of the Southern Wild (it is up for several Oscars, including Best Picture).

If you are looking for a film with a sugar-coated relationship between a father and his daughter, this is not the film for you. It takes a very gritty, sometimes shocking look at what can transpire when people are faced with severe challenges, like isolation, grief and poverty. 

But it is in the conflict where the true “fatherhood magic” happens in this film. Early in the film, we see that Wink is very hard on his daughter, Hushpuppy, played brilliantly by newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis (also nominated for an Oscar). He yells at her, expects her to fend for herself despite her very young age, and even beats her. In a particularly difficult scene, he slaps her repeatedly to the ground.

It is what Hushpuppy makes of this situation that holds an incredibly valuable lesson for fathers. Despite the mistreatment, Hushpuppy very clearly loves her dad and she knows that he loves her, despite his inability to effectively express it. This is critical for fathers to understand, especially dads who are facing particularly difficult circumstances. 

For example, in NFI’s work with incarcerated fathers, one of the first obstacles we have to overcome in helping these men reconnect with their children is to convince them that despite what they may have done in the past, their children still need and love them. 

In Hushpuppy’s case, she is willing to go on a long, hard journey to save her father’s life, despite the fact that he is not the Father of the Year. No, but he is her dad, and she desperately loves him.

By no means are we suggesting that dads should be callous in their behavior toward their kids, resting assured that their children will love them anyway. But what Hushpuppy teaches us dads is that we are entrusted with a sacred relationship that is forged in love, and it is up to us to hold up our end of the bargain and give our children the love they so desperately need and want from us.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is by no means a one dimensional film – you will learn a lot by watching it. But from NFI’s perspective, it is, at heart, a movie about why fathers matter. And for that reason, we have nominated it for the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year.

Have you seen this film? What did you think about it?

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And the Nominees for "Fatherhood Movie of the Year" Are...

fatherhood movie of the yearWhile Hollywood gears up for the Oscars, we are asking you to select the "Fatherhood Movie of the Year" by voting on Facebook for the 2012 film that best communicates the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

The nominees are: Beasts of the Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight), Brave (Disney Pixar), The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Disney), and Parental Guidance (20th Century Fox).

Voters can visit NFI’s official Facebook page, watch the trailers of the four nominated films, and vote for your favorite once per day through Oscar night, February 24.

The contest is part of our effort to shine a light on cultural messages that highlight the unique and irreplaceable role fathers play in their children's lives. Given the power of film in shaping public perceptions, we applaud these four films for their efforts to depict fatherhood in a realistic, positive, and powerful way.

beasts of the southern wildBeasts of the Southern Wild (directed by Behn Zeitlin; starring Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry): “Faced with both her hot-tempered father's fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love” (source: We nominated the film for its realistic depiction of a challenging, but loving relationship between a father and a daughter facing difficult circumstances.  


braveBrave (directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell; starring Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, and Emma Thompson): “Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse” (source: We nominated the film for its depiction of a fun-loving father who encourages his daughter’s adventurous spirit and who is affectionate and loving towards his wife.


odd lifeThe Odd Life of Timothy Green (directed by Peter Hedges; starring Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, and CJ Adams): “A childless couple buries a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Soon, a child is born, though Timothy Green is not all that he appears” (source: We nominated the film for its portrayal of a highly involved and loving father who is deeply, emotionally invested in his son’s life and well being throughout the entire film.


parental guidance

Parental Guidance (directed by Andy Fickman; starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, and Tom Everett Scott): “Artie and Diane agree to look after their three grandkids when their type-A helicopter parents need to leave town for work. Problems arise when the kids' 21st-century behavior collides with Artie and Diane's old-school methods” (source: We nominated the film for its realistic depiction of the generational struggles a pair of loving grandparents face, for its positive portrayal of the importance of marriage, and for the important role the father and grandfather play in their families’ lives.

Use the hashtag #fmy12 on Twitter to get the word out and tell your friends which movie you vote for daily.

We started the "Fatherhood Movie of the Year" Contest last year. The 2011 film, Courageous, was selected by the public as the winner.

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